Remember when you used your cell phone just to make calls? It wasn’t that long ago. Then, you advanced to a smartphone, which enabled you to listen to music, play games and surf the Internet. Today, mobile devices can be used as virtual credit cards, transportation summoners and, with the advancements on the security front, keys to unlock your guestroom door.
Caesars Entertainment Corporation, which owns or operates more than 50 hotel-casino properties all over the world, is one of the early adopters of a mobile-key solution. At the Cromwell in Las Vegas, guests can now enter their rooms using their iPhones and other Apple devices through an app.
“A few years ago, when we started thinking about a mobile key, we worried about the adoption rate of the customer, but the proliferation of using your mobile phone for just about everything these days really has driven the adoption, so people seem to be very excited about this,” said Danielle Gaccione, Caesars’ director of digital product management.
Jeffrey Stephen Parker, VP of tech¬nology and chief funologist at Denver-based hotel management company Stout Street Hospitality, is not sold on mobile just yet. Among the challenges e-keys face are that “guest hardware is disparate” —which is true in The Cromwell’s case, since its solution only connects via Apple iOS devices at the moment—and that “mobile coverage, while better, is still not 100% coverage,” which means that there may still be issues with connectivity to a mobile connection at certain hotels, espe¬cially in off-the-beaten-path areas.
Robert Kraemer, principal of Kraemer Design Group, has seen an increase in the demand for RFID cards as a replacement for the “slide-in” traditional key cards. And, not just for guestroom doors.
“Although not particularly new tech¬nology, we are finally seeing demand from our customers for RFID lock technology,” he noted. “the real trend is the integra¬tion of the RFID card/fob to access not only the front door to the guestroom, but also the in-room safe and the minibar. By combining all of the access under one control method, the consumer finds value in the simplicity, but the operator finds even greater value in the control. We expect to see even greater growth in devices that will use the same technology.”
Control is also a key component to the mobile solution for guestrooms and elevators, which also are connected; guests can put their mobile devices up to the sensor in order to have access to the floor buttons.
“Integrating the mobile key into our existing infrastructure really helped us streamline our operation and also allows us to be more efficient from an internal IT support standpoint,” Gaccione explained. “But first, and foremost, one of the biggest benefits of the integration ensures that we are in control of the security of our guests.
“The key would be actively attached to a room,” she continued, “so that when someone checks out of the hotel, both their traditional room key or e-key will be deactivated and no longer able to access the elevators and guestroom. So, the secu¬rity is very much in our control.”
But whether a hotel’s lock solution is high-tech—mobile or RFID—or low-tech—traditional key cards or, in some instances, actual keys—there is one over¬arching factor: “The most important part of any lock or key is that it works as close to 100% of the time when a guest needs access. After that, everything else is moot,” commented Parker.